Indiana State gets set for its second challenging road game early on in the season Sunday at Notre Dame. The Sycamores go to South Bend after losing a heart-breaking, yet very entertaining, game at Belmont earlier in the week. The 21st-ranked Fighting Irish look to move to 3-0 after trouncing Miami of Ohio and Stetson in its first two games of the season. Oddsmakers have made Notre Dame an 11-point favorite on its home floor for the early Sunday afternoon affair.
I like Indiana State in this spot as a team that’s undervalued a little bit and playing a road game that they may be more ready to play than the home team. It’s never necessarily a great idea to back a home team laying home team-like points in a game at an unusual time in the day. Don’t expect the Notre Dame students to be up and rowdy early on a Sunday afternoon in a spot where the Irish likely will need their home crowd if it wants to cover a large number. This spot reminds me of a time about one year ago when Indiana State played in the Maui Invitational. With odd tip-off times and weak crowds, the Sycamores placed third in the tough tournament field with an upset win over Miami over Thanksgiving break. This crowd will be better than Maui but somewhere proportionally equivalent to what you may have been expecting heading into play. The other thing that the Sycamores have going for them is that they’re a pretty darn good basketball team. ISU brings back team leader, Jake Odum from a team that made some noise on the national stage as well as in the Missouri Valley Conference. In fact, just about everyone returns this year for Indiana State, including athletic swingman Manny Arop. Arop will likely have the tall task of marking Jerian Grant and should hold his own better than many may expect with a similar build and playing style. Indiana State comes off of a shootout one-point loss to Belmont where the Sycamores blew a huge early lead. They will stress playing hard for 40 minutes and have the potential to score with Notre Dame and bring this one down to the last four minutes.
The Irish bring back a talented squad that includes athleticism in Jerian Grant and grizzled experience in the backcourt with Connaughton and Eric Atkins. Both teams actually play pretty similar styles and matchup pretty well at most positions. Justin Gant’s ability to bang with the bodies of Notre Dame in the paint will be key for ISU but I expect them to be within the number here.
Free Pick: Indiana State +11